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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  July 4, 2011 8:30am-9:45am EDT

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the revolution. not so much the famous founding fathers of when we've all heard, but the kind of small farmers, small planters, maybe artisans who maybe own enough tools and enough material or shopkeepers who own enough stock in goods and enough credit to qualify to vote, okay? these are men who qualify to vote for their representative or delegate to their colonial legislature in the colonial period. but it never occurs to them that they might themselves run for office except maybe very minor local offices. so these are what i'd say ordinary men, i mean the free white men who for much of their adult life qualify to vote, but nobody thought of them of the social class that could be rulers. and so the question of my book is, what did these people bring to the patriot movement that created the revolution, and bra bought them -- what brought this
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'em? what ideas of liberty did they bring with them? to answer them i'm going to share three quotations, and there are just a few papers out there with copies of them, but i'll read them for you. to give you an idea of the scope and the nature of the argument i'm making. the first quotation comes from the independent advertiser which is a newspaper put out by a young samuel adams in boston in the late 1740s. lot of english authorities. he often doesn't actually attribute them, he just runs articles as they tended to do. and sometimes they said these are from our great authors but didn't tell you which ones. [laughter] and this is a little piece about how great civil goth was. -- government was. it is, quote, the most instill bl blessing that hand kind can enjoy. -- mankind can enjoy. and this author, this is from about the 1680s, the original, that they should really think highly of government.
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they should insist that it operate, quote, for the happiness and security of all. and is so they said, if there be any form of government amongst men where the supreme magistrate is not vested with enough power to protect the people and promote their prosperity or if there be any such constitution as enables the prince to injury and oppress the subject, such constitutions are inconsistent with civil society. well, part of this is familiar, that you can't have the prince oppressing the people. part of it is less familiar, and, in fact, it's worth noting that the threat of pressive -- oppressive goth here comes in second to the incapable government. [laughter] okay, thank you. this was not an enforcement of government that governs least, it's rather an endorsement of government that was both accountable and effective, mindful of its obligations to
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execute the laws that protected the small people from the excessive ambitions of the great or would-be great. and about that quote i just want to say the reason english people felt strongly on behalf of government, you know, in the 17th century they could have just gotten entirely rid of the monarchy. they did get rid of two, but they stuck with the monarchy because they found the king and his laws extremely useful in dealing with the other oppressors in their lives, namely the great lords and the great gent ri. and the experience of the midling people, the rural population in the early modern period was one of being pushed off of the land where they had lived for generations as the great lords and the great gentry amazed more of the land and extended their notion of property rights to exclude the
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use of forests or rivers. so as to, um, reorganize. and this was called improvement. it's a word sort of like development. it's improvement if you are a certain person in this system, but for other people households were pushed either into becoming, um, landless wage earners working on other people's farms or wage earners in the textile mills that were growing up in the wool industry, or they went off to london, or those who really wanted land, some of them came to british north america, right? so, where they hoped to gain a firmer hold. so in that struggle of some centuries that shift in the use of land what was useful to many of the midling and ordinary people often was the law. they would pool their money, the small holders in an area, and, um, prevent the enclosure or improvement that the lord or the great gentry landlord wanted. so that was the reason they
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liked government. it sometimes worked for them. and monarchy worked partly because you could always say, well, even the king can own too much, and everyone would agree to that. once you agree to that, then the lords can own too much. that's this top level that allows -- there is a concept of too much inherent in the world of the monarchy. the second quotation brings us to north america. of course, there were people who wanted to be lords of the land in north america, too, and the friends of the king, lords baltimore, lord fairfax, the penn family, any number of friends and the creditors of the king, but it turned out in the 17th century they couldn't make money off of rents because there was too much land and not enough settlers for them. and so you had to give all these breaks to people to have them come settle your land and build farms there. that balance of power shifts in the 18th century as you have more settlers and as the east coast, the seaboard increasingly
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is patented and settled up. so what you find in the 18th century is a new effort on behalf of these proprietors, often now the children and grandchildren of the original owners of the land, to get rent. and one of the places this is going on is the colony of east jersey where some two dozen proprietors -- now, i think, largely the grandchildren of those originally granted the land -- are trying to collect rents, back rents, they're trying to claim use to timber on the land of people who have settled in the farms. and there are huge struggles for decades in new jersey through the courts and over the court system, and there are also riots which break out when the courts do the unpopular thing. so this quotation is from a man in new jersey, and this is my reference to religion to fit with my fellow panelists. this is griffin jenkins who is
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an evangelical christian, presbyterian in new jersey, and he writes a brief vindication of the purchasers -- people who bought the land -- against the proprietors in a christian manner in 1746. and this is what he tells the proprietors. be strictly just in all thy dealing with man and think not thyself discharged the duty of righteousness toward a neighbor by the extraordinary measure of piety toward god. covetousness was the beginning of this misrule and mistake that has happened among us. i think it is playing cause to all men that it was covetousness brought in these proprietors as you call them into the plantations of these poor people. so jenkins reasons as if you had to have a reason to improve your land and try to make more money, that it wasn't on the face of it the obvious, logical, patriotic, wonderful thing to do. in fact, he says to the
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proprietors, if there was not some desirable entertainment of the flesh, you would never seek news improvements -- these improvements. [laughter] so the notion that there is a morally correct amount of ambition that the small farmers tend to aim at which is what they call a competency meaning kind of enough for you and your household and maybe set up your kids the same way. and then there's that unacceptable amount of ambition x that's often called unbounded avarice. [laughter] so that's a particularly evangelical voice, but you can find very secular voices also in the 18th century saying similar things, even someone like benjamin franklin, an ambitious, self-made kind of guy. we'll talk about the money men who have unbounded avarice and how different that is from wanting a competency. so the final quote makes a leap to the revolution, and this is a
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quotation from an almanac at just the beginning of the dispute with england. they've had the sugar act, the stamp act, and now nathaniel ames who writes an almanac in the boston is describe what the movement is about. quote, to prevent the execution of that detestable maxim of european policy amongst us. okay? and here's the detestable european idea. that the common people who are three-quarters of the world must be kept in ignorance, that they may be slaves to the other quarter who live in magnificence. [laughter] and that's a very powerful and lovely quotation, and it helps us remember that the way many ordinary men saw the conflict with britain, what was the sugar act? it was something, it was a law passed to favor the british sugar planters, this wealthy group of men who mostly live in
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london and hobnob with members of parliament. what's the stamp act? the an act to pass taxes from the rich -- namely the british -- to the poor which you always are when you're about to be taxed, but the poor, midling colonist. and the tea act, what is it? is it's favoritism on behalf of parliament for the shareholders of the east india tea company. so there's the government being oppressive, the parliament, and i think it's important to understand what the revolution was about for many ordinary patriots was this effort to set up governments of their own, that their problem was that their governments lacked the power to protect the people and promote their prosperity. and that to understand the movement solely as anti-government is to understand it really halfway and partly from the point of view of the most well-to-do who are always the ones who can do without less government and not from the
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point of view of the many people who actually made the revolution happen. [applause] >> thank you. thank you, barbara clark smith. our next author is john ragosta. >> thank you, tatiana, thank you all for coming. i got started on this project several years back when i was live anything culpepper county, about an hour north of here. and being in culpepper, i became interest inside the cull pepper minutemen, some ofback rah's ordinary -- barbara's ordinary people. they shoulder their guns, they march 200 miles and win the first significant battle in virginia during the war. i found a gentleman named william mcclanahan. he's an interesting guy. he is a baptist minister, now, this is colonial virginia. we still have an established church of england.
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he's a baptist minister, he is captain of one of the battalions of the culpepper minutemen, and he was put in jail in 1773 for preaching the gospel. okay? now, we have a curious problem here. so my research got turned to why is mcclanahan willing to pick up his gun and march to nor poke? i discovered three things in that process. the first was that, in fact, the persecution of dissenters in colonial virginia was a lot worse than historians had led us to believe. we all know, perhaps from college or high school, that we still had taxes to pay anglican ministers. so if you're a baptist or presbyterian, you're paying for the local anglican minister. but that wasn't the half of it. start anything the 1760s, we started as the baptist and presbyterians were growing, they eventually are almost a third of the population by the time of the revolution, there's an effort to put them down through physical persecution. well, what do i mean? throwing rocks at ministers, horse whipping ministers, dragging them down from the
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pulpit, dragging them around by their hair or their legs, um, dunking baptist -- they really liked to dunk the baptists. tatiana's right, the baptists enliven things. [laughter] they'd take him out, drag him down, take him to the closest body of water, he wants to be babbtized, they'd dunk -- baptized, they'd dunk him under the water until he almost drowned. in one case there was a meeting going on, they threw a hornet's nest into a meeting. in another case they threw a snake into a meeting of dissenters. i speculate in my book, it was a copperhead. this is piedmont, virginia, these are farmers. you throw a black snake in, you're really not going to notice. it's the kind of thing you throw on baptists, a copperhead. [laughter] but, again, the persecution got worse. by 1768 they're actually jailing ministers. and as i mentioned, william
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mcclanahan gets jailed. by the time of the revolution, over 50 people have been jailed for preaching or disturbing the peace which was the same thing if you're not an anglican. and the conditions were quite poor. to give you some sense of that, james ireland is jailed in culpepper. where he's jailed actually in the 19th century became a baptist church. it's sort of interesting. but these baptist ministers realized this was part of their witness. they could be in jail and preach from their jail cells, and people would come and listen, and they'd get more converts. james ireland goes to the window to preach to the crowd, someone urinates in his face. john weatherford is preaching from his jail cell in chesterfield county, he reaches out his arms, he's praying, he's got his arms out the windows, men come with knives and cut his arms. he had scars until the day he died. in a number of cases people would gather to hear preaching and anglicans, presumably, would
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ride through the crowd. if you've ever had a horse come at you, this is dangerous, it's frightening, and they would particularly beat the living daylights out of the blacks in the crowd, free or shave. free or slave. so this is the kind of thing that's going on. well, this heightens the question, it's an important discovery, it heightens the question, why is william mcclanahan willing to go fight for these people who were doing this to him? that leads to my second discovery which was really fairly simple. the dissenters made it clear to the establishment leaders, the people leading the revolution, you want us to fight, you'll give us religious freedom. and it was conditional. and they said that's going to be the deal. and over the course of the revolution, a back and forth between these people and the new state, patrick henry and edmund pendleton, and they eventually get religious freedom. i'm not going to talk about the two much, it's in the book. because i want to talk about the third thing, and i suspect many
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of you are interest inside the third discovery. if you are going to deal for religious freedom, we will fight, we will pick up our guns and march to norfolk, we will fight, but we want religious freedom. what are you getting for this deal? the how do you define that religious freedom? and what i discovered was that these evangelicals, these are 18th century evangelical baptists and presbyterians mostly, some lutheran, some mennonite. methodists are just coming on the scene in virginia. what they got was a very robust, we might almost say modern religious freedom in their minds. two examples. first of all, on the christian nation issue, is this going to be a christian nation we're fighting for? the e van y'all cels said -- evangelicals said absolutely not. if government has the power to make this a christian nation, they have the power to make it a presbyterian nation or a methodist nation or, god forbid, a catholic nation or an anglican nation.
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they said the government does not have this power. let's be clear, the government has no power to regulate religion in that manner. so their petitions to the government would say things like we are fighting for religious liberty for jews and christians of every denomination. another one talks about jews, turks, pagans, avowedinfidels, and it goes on and on. now, mind you, there are not a lot of turks in the 18th century virginia. [laughter] but these people understood we're creating a nation for the long-term. they also thought, and especially john leland who was one of the great leaders, one of the most popular preachers in virginia at the time, thought that it was an oxymoron to talk about a christian nation. or maybe an abomination. leland said that if i get indulgence, preferment or even protection because i'm a christian, it's a species of adoll try, okay? the i worship god because i
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worship god. if i get anything from the government for worshiping god, it's idolatry. so leland, he's out there preaching. jesus says his regime is not of this world, give to caesar what is caesar's, the gates of hell will not prevail. keep government out. now, john fea's going to talk some more about that, i'm sure, in the 19th century. things change in the 19th century, but for these 18th century evangelicals in virginia who really are at the core of the first amendment, no christian nation. second aspect of religious freedom, separation of church and state. they make it clear, we want the government out. now, mind you, this is different. thomas jefferson wants the church out of the government, okay? these people want the government out of the church, but they come together in their views. presbyterians write: no law should pass to connect the church and state in the future. baptist louis longford, a very
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famous preacher, says the unlawful cohabitation between church and state which has so often been looked upon as holy wedlock must now suffer a separation and be forever put asunder. the notion we hear today from the right wing that secularism is invented in the 20th century, separation of church and state is something that's made up, these are 18th century evangelicals saying we will have separation of church and state if you want us to fight for the government. i'll conclude, i'll just read a short comment from the very end of the book. during the american revolution, virginia' religious disscepters demanded religious freedom in return for their full support for mobilization. the resulting negotiations changed virginia's pollty such that after the war efforts to reinvigorate the establishment failed and te -- defenders ushered into law jefferson's religious freedom.
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yet, it is clear that legal decisions have failed adequately to listen to the voice of the virginia dissenters, and they must be heard. thank you. [applause] >> thank you, john ragosta. and now john fea. >> thank you. so was america founded as a christian nation, which is in the title of my book. john just talked a little bit about this. i speak a lot on this topic, and usually when i, when the talk is advertised, you know, with this title most people come to the talk already with their minds made up yes or no, and then they expect me to sort of confirm their beliefs. [laughter] one of the first questions i always get asked about the title of my book is, well, is the answer yes or no? was america founded as a christian nation? most people who are looking for ammunition on that question, i think, are going to be disappointed.
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i approach this question as an historian. one of the things that bothers me is the way this question is politicized, the founding era has been politicized, i think, by the right, but also by the left. cherry picking from the past to try to find something to suit their own needs and their own present agenda. i like the quote from the famous historian, bernard bailyn, who said all this politicization of history is like indoctrination by historical example. and so often with this question of was america founded as a christian nation, this is what happens. as an historian, i'm trying to look at this question. again, to say i'm competely objective would probably be a myth or not be true, i don't think any historian can be. but i am trying to cut through some of the politicization of this idea. so in the end was america founded as a christian nation? i'm going to sound like a typical academic or professor here, but i think the answer is
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it depends how you define the question. [laughter] it depends what the meaning of "is" is. [laughter] and, you know, what is a christian nation? how do you define christian in this case? how do you define nation? how do you define founded? you know, there's many on the right and the christian nationalists who, you know, argue, well, america was founded in 1620 when the pilgrims came over, and as a result, they tried to establish a christian civilization, and, thus, there it is, the christian nation. of course, we have john's evidence that suggest in virginia there was, clearly, no emphasis at least from jefferson, madison and all of those evangelical baptists who supported them that they were trying to create a christian nation. so let me, let me just for the sake of time here, let me throw out four or five very quick conclusions that i've drawn about the role of religion in the american founding, the religion of the founding fathers and so forth. the week is divided into -- the
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book is divided into three parts. the first thing i try to do is to try to trace the history of the idea that america was founded as a christian nation or america is a christian nation. so i traced it from 1800 all the way up to the present in the first four chapters. the fourth chapter of the book deals with what i call the christian nationalists today. some of you may be familiar with these people, names like david barton, peter marshall and david manuel and so forth. i tried to be, again, as an historian, give them the benefit of the doubt wherever possible, but i try to at least lay out their views. through much of the 19th century it's clear that americans have always understood themselves as being part of a christian nation. now, that doesn't necessarily mean that they believe the constitution in some ways established america as a christian nation. but they often saw themselves as part of a christian nation, and this was not even a contested issue. you know, people just assumed, you know, of course we're part of a christian nation.
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so the first point i want to make really is that, again, americans have always understood themselves -- especially in the 19th century and early portions of the 20th century -- the dominant position. whether they were right or wrong or where their position represented the views of the founders or not, they clearly believed they were part of a christian nation. especially in the early 19th century. the second thing, back to the revolution now for a second, ministers regularly appealed to the bible both the loyalist ministers and the evangelical, patriotic ministers used the bible to justify their positions for revolution. now, it's really interesting about the pro-patriot ministers of the day is they often, you know, had some fun playing around with the bible. you know, things like slavery which throughout the history of the christian church has always been understood as sort of slavery to sin, or, you know,
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slavery to our sin natures. suddenly it takes on political meanings. or things like liberty which had always been understood in the new testament as sort of liberty and freedom from sin, from the devil or satan quickly becomes liberty and freedom from george the iii. so there's a lot of sort of i don't want to call it manipulating because i don't want to get into a debate about how to interpret the bible here because it's sort of out of my pay grade a little bit, but clearly the ways in this which they're interpreting the bible, many of the patriots, often do not conform with the ways in which the christian church for a millennia before have interpreted these passages. of course, the anglicans, you know, they're biblical literalists. romans 13 says we should submit ourselves to government because government comes from god. it even says in that chapter we should pay our tribute or pay our taxes. we should submit to the authority. so there's this huge debate over
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the meaning of the bible in these passages, um, and these ministers in the many ways are really duking it out over the right interpretation of the bible. third point i want to make, or i make in the book, the constitution clearly is a godless document. now, i said this on a radio interview a couple weeks ago with a conservative talk radio host, and he fired back at me, no, it says the year of our lord, 1787, so it does mention god. [laughter] you know, fair enough. and, actually, he made an interesting comment which i need to think more about. he said, you know, the fact that they use the name of the lord when they, when they said the date like that does say something about the culture, i think, of the day. but nevertheless, nothing about god there. sixth amendment, no religious establishment. of course, the first amendment freedom of religion. so there's not a whole lot of things. john mccain in the 2008 election said the constitution
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definitely establishes america as a christian nation. well, you know, that's -- you're hard-pressed to make that argument based on the text. now, however, if you look at 1 of the 13 state -- 12 of the 13 state constitutions, and virginia is the big exception to this because they're the ones, as john just pointed out, established religious freedom, separation of church and state and so forth. if you look at these state constitutions, though, and, you know, i don't have a political axe to grind on this question, but it does fascinate me that almost all of them have very, very specific religious, christian if not protestant qualifications for holding office. so you have pennsylvania, for example. the most radical, democratic constitution of them all. in order to serve the government in pennsylvania, you have to uphold the divine inspiration of the old and new testaments. you know, you have to believe in a god. vermont is the one i love. 177 -- as a historian at least, right?
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1776 constitution of the independent state of vermont, you know, today this bastion of kind of secular liberalism upholds the idea that, you know, all people serving in government must believe in the inspiration of -- divine inspiration of the old and new testaments, obey the soundness and be a protestant. so you've got catholics, jews, unbelievers, you know, forget about it. they'll have religious freedom to worship the way they want, but they can't serve in government. so this is a huge question. a federalist argument, did the constitution leave religion out because that was what the states were supposed to deal with? real quick just to conclude here, all the founding fathers did believe in religious liberty. now, you could have an established church like you do in new england or connecticut and still allow people to worship the way they want without the kind of persecution that john was talking about in virginia. here's one that gets me into trouble sometimes, especially with those on the left. but the declaration -- i should
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say the founding fathers, i argue, in the book were not deists as is often heard. i'll be happy to answer questions on that. i'll just drop a bomb on that one and sort of leave it there. we can debate that during the q&a. and then finally, all of the founding fathers, i would argue, believe that religion -- even christianity in some cases -- was important to producing a virtuous republic and making moral citizens, benevolent citizens and so forth. so they, clearly, you know, were not sort of, you know, believing that they were, you know, they don't want religion to play any role in the government or at least i should say in the culture. so i'll stop there. [applause] >> i'd like to thank the authors for doing a magnificent job for keeping within the time limits, allowing much time for questions. a few administrative points. i'd like to thank one of the sponsors for this event, m. reva
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ck and company and, secondly, most events are free, and the book festival would like to deep it that way. there are envelopes in the back, or you can donate online. thank you. there will be some questions and, please, because this will be broadcasts, there are microphones going around. i will point to a question and then, please, wait for the microphone before, before you answer. so questions. hands. in the front here. ..
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>> during the revolution, maryland, or virginia is to longer persecuting dissenters. maryland starts to jail them during the revolution. and asher in my book one of the things that talk about is virginia is unique in this regard because in north carolina, maryland, south carolina, the dissenters becomes loyal as. they decide where to stick with the king because people are running here are the ones persecuting us. virginia is unique. it's a different pattern. the fact of the matter is most historians point out that virginia is the model for the first amendment. not maryland. where they become loyalist. >> during the american revolution, maryland constitution after 1776 does collect attribute or a tax to
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support the christian religion. so they still keep sort of a quasi-establishment for a little bit. >> in the front row. >> thank you. this is for ms. smith. i have to ask. the east new jersey proprietorships, was that part of new hampshire didn't? if it was, have those smart dutchman sold those to other people? [laughter] >> i wish i knew all the details. no, this was part of new york, the duke of york's ownership of what had been new hamster dance but was also new jersey. and so there were certainly dutch people, dutch settlers in the area but it was largely an english dispute going on about the land. >> second row. >> i'm from connecticut and i,
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most people may not realize in the south that baptist denomination began in providence, rhode island, and is a very strong act is contingent in danbury, connecticut, in which thomas jefferson wrote a famous letter about separation of church and state. what i want to know is the story of the 1200-pound cheese truth, because another, the leader of the danbury baptist, his last name was lee lend -- >> the same fellow. >> john leland, okay so it is too. thank you. >> he makes a big cheese. >> i think jefferson was serving this thing at state dinners for several years. >> it rotted and they finally had to take it out. same guy. >> could you comment about the significance of that letter, for those who don't know?
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>> we could be her for a long time. i'm writing another book that will address some of these issues and some of the issues that john -- let me say one thing. what you have to understand is connecticut has an establishment after the revolution, and john is referring to that, that changes. connecticut eliminates the establishment under the influence of the jeffersonian republicans. so one of the things that happens, you do have 12 states that have various forms of establishments. they all are eliminated over the course of the 19th century with people quoting jefferson to in rhode island they take the virginia statute for scholars and religious freedom, put in the constitution, never say it's the virginia statute or jefferson gave it to us but it is word for word. the question is who is influencing these things, and that's why part of a new book is about what historians and supreme court justices say no, it's about virginia. they are right. so connecticut is influenced rhode island, many of these
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places to adopt the virginian attitude. but that particular letter is part of that. it's jefferson trying to encourage the connecticut people to develop a virginia tech separation of church and state. >> would you like to add? >> just to add to that, i think some of these, you're exactly right, some of these clauses disappear. some rather quickly. i think south carolina continues to affirm itself as a protestant state all the way up to 1851 i think is in their constitution. new england remains an establishment, an established church until 1833. it's a matter of interpretation. some could argue that for 57 years or so in new england you do have an established church, but, of course, the other argument, the argument for progress is that rarely these things go way. so john is absolutely right on that. >> how about in the back with glasses?
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>> this is for all three. what i've heard so far deals with, seems to deal with the christian inhabitants of north america who were clearly a majority in the period you're talking about. i'm wondering what documentation you might have come across at the beginning, what point in history for the presence of jews and nonbelievers, atheists, whatever word you might use for them? and as long with documentation, what you defined in terms of their stand on religion and government?
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>> me? this is on me? talking about -- there certainly are some groups, some jewish communities, individuals who don't count themselves as christian. not even beginning to talk about people or africans and african-americans, about his religion no one is deeply concerned in this time period. there's beginning to be something that white america is thinking about. and there certainly are people who are rational christians, who are influenced by the enlightenment, who look at the bible as you look at all else through the light of reason. and they may have their doubts. on the other hand, they tend to be very quiet about their debt. precisely because you are prohibited from dissipation in a variety of things, if you -- so
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reason he becomes so strongly for separation of church and state, he attends william and mary and he has extremely enlightened professors there, all of whom have to tactically subscribe to what is a, 39 articles of the anglican religion. and so there's not a discussion that's going to take place in class about rational religion. although reading all the, being in touch in enlightened world, one knows, jefferson knows he becomes part of this world where people are looking again at religion the same way they're looking at institutions and government and saying is the sensible or is this part of a system that tells people you won't understand and this is too leaves teams and what jackson would talk about as priestcraft, the kind of sneaky clergy who were supporting tyrannical regimes and/or supported by those regimes in turn.
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so, that announce is taking place in prison leaders a lot of people, who knows what they actually believe? you don't come as far as i know you don't find groups of people organized as freethinkers or atheists pressing for rights because they wouldn't have gotten them. >> jefferson is an interesting one because he does, if you want to sort of see the kind of thing that happened, look at jefferson running for president in the year 1800, and at the denunciation of him as a supposed atheist, and any number of things. there is just this unbelievably hysterical criticism, especially in federalist new england of what it will be like when we get this president who's not really christian. so the notion of setting up and organizing for rights would have been i think a losing
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proposition. >> there are thousands of jews in the country at the time of the american revolution. one of the great financiers of the revolution is a jewish. but i think what people were saying about them and what they are saying, there's two different messages about them. from these virginia people i'm talking about, i could give you many more, people were saying we understand what we're fighting for is going to affect the jews, the mohammed is, the turks. johnson talks about hindus at one point. this is going to apply changes. there are not a lot of hindus in 18th century virginia but there's a recognition that's what we're talking about. there are many other people, for example, during the constitution ratification process, people recognize there's a reference to christianity in a. in fact, the reference john makes about the year of our lord, that was added by a clerk after the constitution was voted on and the delegates had left. [laughter] >> people are complaining, wait
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a minute, this is not a christian document and we might have a jewish president. and so there is this backlash. my answer to that is they lost. they lost. they recognize the constitution says nothing about people's rights, the jewish, mohammed and so on. the other question though is the jewish people, and we didn't have a lot of turks. resort if people are atheists but as barbara says, who knows? there is some interesting stuff from the jewish committee about religious freedom. the most famous is the synagogue in providence that rights to george washington and says you're the new president, what's going to happen to us? washington writes back, washington's religion is sort of obligated an interesting. washington writes back in one of his i'd say most aggressive defenses of religious freedom and separation of church and state. washington tends to move, he moves around depending on who
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he's talking to. he's careful about what he says. i don't want to give the wrong impression. i think washington has a very good attitude towards these things but he does speak to who he is speaking to. but his letter to the true role jewish community, there's this back and forth with the jews are single, we have this new constitution. we get complete right. he said absolutely. in this country you have nothing to fear. >> just real quick. i agree with everything that's been said. on the other hand, and most of the states with the exception of virginia, at least in the first 25, 30 years, i have to say this as historian, jews could not run for office, could not hold any sort of civil position. position in government even though they had the freedom, religious freedom. so in some ways religious freedom is a worship but certainly not to participate in government until as john mentioned before a lot of these stipulations are removed by the 19th century.
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>> thank you. in the front. >> this is for john fea. you opened it up so you knew it was going to happen. the founding fathers being or not being -- >> i always tell my students, fathers religion, don't refer them as, the founding fathers believed, as if they had some kind of unified position on their religious faith. there's also a fundamental difference i think between someone's religious conviction, the personal religious convictions and the way they think about the relationship between religion and government. shirley johnson evangelical baptist, are devout evangelical christians are are are good for the separation of church and state. there is a logical fallacy there that just because somebody is a christian doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to advocate for christian nation. but i think in some cases vice
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versa. the answer the about the ds, all the founding fathers at least the major ones i look at and above, jefferson, franklin, john adams and george washington, and i look at three sort more christian orthodox founders, all of these men believed in one way or another in 18th century doctrine of providence, a belief that there was a god who providentially sort of not only created the world but also sustained the world. and even at times may intervene in that world, that god created. so in 18th century, dias certainly came out of, you know, sort of christian churches and so forth. but via schism -- i think in 18 center are often incompatible terms. you can't believe in a god who
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creates the universe and then steps back and allows it to run by natural law or loss of around or loss of politics or natural rights and so forth. so you can't believe that. and at same time believe that god can actively intervene in his or her creation. so the classic example i think that comes to mind as big ben franklin. if you've read his autobiography in his life he tries to refute him in an alternately is convinced by the ss i became a thorough going dios. most scholarship on franklin's religion, laid on her life he changes his views slightly. certainly doesn't become a christian. he certainly rejects the trinity. he rejects the inspiration of the old and new testament and so forth, may even reject the resurrection of jesus christ. but he doesn't believe that god can intervene. one example of this, during the constitutional convention in this heated debate, literally
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and figuratively, there he and his 100-degree, late july, the doors are all locked and boarded up because they wanted to remain secret but there's this debate going on between, some of your member this from a civics classes, the virginia plan, new jersey plan, the connecticut compromise and so forth. this get so heated and actually benjamin franklin says we need to break and we need to call upon god to reconcile the differences. of all people, you know? [laughter] benjamin franklin. and his petition is turned down by the committee. hamilton, i don't think it's true but alexander hamilton supposedly said i deny franklin's petition because the united states of america will not be reliant upon any foreign power. [laughter] whether hamilton, whether hamblin said that are not i don't think he did but it's still a great line. but nevertheless it turned down because, not because they felt
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they should have a minister. were the reasons they turned down they didn't have enough money to pay the guy to come in and pray for them. but the point is here's franklin, a guy who, united states doesn't call upon god to intervene in some ways. so that's my argument at least. they weren't christians though by no means. most of them were not. at least the major fight. i don't think they were dios either that they occupy the middle ground. >> i've largely forgotten education but i remember, mrs. scott in seventh grade in history class, her discussion about number 17. my question is, well, since i moved to gods a good, that's a quote from a dios, isn't it? how were the virginian delegation, particularly
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mr. jefferson, able to convince, particularly those in the north to accept number 17 as the argument for the first amendment? >> again, that's the next book. [laughter] >> i think, let me give you a simple answer and the happy to go into at any length. you have a difference of opinion. and most people view it as a compromise and you have to have middleground. what i think if you don't have as a lobbyist for 20 years. you don't need a middleground that you need something that both groups get. somebody has to get -- let's make a simple. you have the metazoans and hamiltonian. hamilton was very into christian language and document. madisonian say we want very strict separation of church and state. the hamiltonian's say what really want is to keep the federal government out of the state establishment, what john is referring to. perfect compromise. we get a very, very strong first
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amendment which says the federal government is going to have a separation of church and state. the federal government will stay out of religion. and i have a religious test. with the state get in the christian promoters get is we get to do whatever we want in the states. that changes after the civil war. i'm sorry virginia has now lost. [laughter] i realize that's a shocker. [laughter] but after the civil war we get the 14th amendment, and these things yet incorporated. but my argument is that's the compromise. the states get to continue to rake in religion. the federal, we'll have a virginian ask religion. >> with the yellow shirt in the back over there. >> this is for ms. clark smith.
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you mention at the start of your presentation, you talked about some of the rural sort of middling people not taken in inches, or even thinking about possibly running the government, they just want the freedom. when did that change and how much did money have to do with it? >> well, money had nothing to do with that. [laughter] if you believe that. that's really, history to say that's to shift between the kind of republican ideas of the late 18th and early 19th century to the democratic ideas. certainly during the colonial period there's a certain kind of person who was born to lead. that's why you're born into a certain class. if you're in that class you can have the kind of education, the kind of leisure, cosmopolitan outlook. you know enough about the world to go make laws and rules.
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so the assumption is ordinary farmers know enough to choose who will go, but they don't know enough to go be a legislator themselves. in some ways there's a notion, therefore, that they differ. the word they use is a difference. you defer to your superiors and let them go will. of course, if you're a farmer you don't want to go spend six weeks during the time when you would be planting anyway, in the capital city making up really, you know, relatively unimportant groups of laws. so it's not entirely deference but it sort of this is the thing that gentlemen do. that idea that this is a thing gentlemen do gets eroded quite a bit in the run up to the revolution because as these ordinary men are more and more active and are involved in the kind of negotiations and compromises with their superiors, they become prominent. numbers of them get practice at serving on local committees,
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local committees then enforcing important decisions to do with the revolution. a large part of my book is questioning who exactly is leading whom during the course of the revolution. because our notion that they are these leaders and have ideas and then the other ordinary people kind of listen to the ideas and they agreed and they join a movement, that may be true in ordinary times. i'm not sure it's true it in ordinary times, but it is definitely not true in revolutionary times. the revolutionary times precise when there is an ambiguity about who is leading whom, and who is joining him. my sense is that people like thomas jefferson, part of what i admire about the famous founders is these are people who can follow. these are people who are an actual represented relationships with large numbers of their fellows. and a fair number of them choose
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not to follow the ordinary people because they don't want to be in a movement with these baptists and backward farmers and people who don't know anything. and who are the wrong sort. so there is a risk that the elite are taking in joining the ordinary. so in the course of the revolution there is certain opening up. so most of the state constitution do broaden the suffered somewhat so that more free white men, and in my home state, new jersey but kind of by accident, free white women, but nonetheless by accident we could vote for a brief period of time. and then in the 19th century you get increasing this idea by the time a jackson and the air of the common man, that ordinary men can will. that's when elite start pretending they were born in log cabins and things like that. [laughter] which in 18th century, in 18th century i was born in the house, therefore i should rule is the law to conclude. in the 19th century, you know, had to be born in a log cabin
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but in the 20th century, we thought of this at the smithsonian, i want to exit a president who pretended to be cowboys. [laughter] >> and that's the assumption that, if you can drive a truck, you can -- [laughter] no one ever actually exactly believed it. that is, that you have to actually -- you have to have one over the money. obviously. but once it's established that ordinary men, too, can earn money and power, then of course they can be rulers, too. >> actually, orange shirt next. teal shirt first. >> how did we get to take the
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oath of office in a court of law put your hand on the bible? [applause] >> i know there's a big debate. we quickly at the smithsonian get letters from people telling us either we are totally right or we're totally wrong, and we never say anything about it. whether george washington said so help me god, and you know, how many people were close enough to hear at the time, and have you got a record from them? >> but be clear that the constitution does not include -- that line which is not in the constitution. george washington almost certainly did not say so help me god. not only is there no evidence but there's a minister whose presence, he is writing about the inoculation. he later becomes washington's great christian defended that he's arguing what a great christian washington is that if anyone was willing to say washington said this, this person would have said it. and he doesn't. he almost certainly say.
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on the bible, actually. 12th century england? want to change is, and it's also changed in the state constitutions, you don't have to. so there's nothing -- i don't have any problem taking an oath on a bible. but equator was a don't make me do that. and that's what the change is. >> i would agree. there's a guy who e-mails me i think once a month asking me this question if i found him or evidence to see whether or not washington has sworn on -- >> has he sworn on the bible yet? [laughter] >> have you dug up the evidence. spent i think part of what's interesting is the way the logic works, and i think we're on the same page, thinking first were asking, saying expand your notion of the founders are to include those ordinary people and those ordinary baptists as well as the same as men, and
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think about the relationship with one another. also the notion that there is somewhere the smoking gun, this one piece of evidence that will show that what the founders really wanted was. and you know, the problem is the founders really want -- they kept changing what they wanted. how did they know? there in the middle of this tremendous upheaval and they're doing their best to lay down principles, which means certain things to them, not necessarily the same thing to a representative from massachusetts or pennsylvania. and they are trying to pull this off. and that change so fast over time. so what you hear all the dumber people talking about the 18th century, the revolutionary, the patriots, the founders as if there is some single position. and the position is every man for himself. like everyone has a different idea, and their notion of what liberty was is probably not
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something we actually would want. or indeed be capable of. then maybe aspects of what they wanted that we want to know about and study and model ourselves on and say there were some good ideas there, but we don't live in this world of where we are are all farmers, where we are aiming at a competency and we have this generalized notion of how to treat neighbors. and we can limit our rulers because those rulers have a farm nearby. you know, if the big corporate owners have a farm nearby you have leverage on those people, and they don't. so we are in a whole different world from the people who wrote this document. >> thank you, barbara. over here. >> talking about founders and their private faith, can you speak to the relevance of the
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private faith of the founders, say that those who in the constitutional convention. is their private faith relevant to the question of whether or not we are a christian nation? and if so, what is the relevance of it? >> yeah, i tried to suggest this when i was come in response to a previous question. it's certainly a fascinating historical topic, what did these people believed about faith and so forth. i think you need to be careful again that making sort of a one-to-one correlation if we can just go to john adams was a christian, then we can do that with a christian nation, and we can justify some kind of a political position based upon returning to the golden age or the foundations that we lost, or something to that effect. again, i will say this again, i think the evangelical baptists are the perfect example of someone who don't necessarily uphold any idea of a christian
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nation. so i think we need to be careful about that logical fallacy, if you will, that jump from personal belief to the role of religion in government. >> and i would add, i agree with a lot of what john said in his book and he said today. it depends on what you mean by christian nation, how do you define it. what what worries me about that argument is let's all say this is a white nation, which is what 50 years ago people in this room are saying and they were preparing for mass resistance. we all know what that means pick it means if you ain't one of us, you're not a real american. you're not a full american. you don't get complete rights. and so when people talk, and not john, again, i think his book does a good job of walking through come you've got to look at this, look at that. but we know that most of the people who are addressing this is a christian nation, what they mean is if you ain't one of us, you don't get full rights.
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and most of these founders and john is also right, which founded you mean? what are we talking about? but most of them wouldn't have thought in those terms. even the ones were very devoutly christian and even a one-to-one us to be a christian nation innocent people would be christians. did not think of it as an official designation. spent again, timing is everything. john adams i argue in the book is a unitarian who reject the trinity, thanks a lot of religion and superstition, grew up in a congregational home, sees himself as a christian based on that. here's the flipside. he's the author of a 78 massachusetts constitution which gives a religious establishment in place because he believes religious and morality are essential to the good of massachusetts. this last until 1833. i think jon and i are arguing the flipside of, arguing the opposite side of the coin but i don't think we are in disagreement at all. >> we have time for one more
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question. in the back in the red sweater. >> i'm curious to your answer, we have members of the supreme court today that feel they should rule their decisions on what the people were thinking at the time of the constitution being written. now, where'd you come down on something like that? [applause] >> you give me a pointer to the supreme court, i'd be happy to set them straight. [laughter] look, the question of original intent is one that historians by and large reject. i'm also a lawyer so i don't rejected quite as quickly as historians do. what the supreme court has said again and again, this is interesting, important and interesting, the one provision of the constitution that should be bounded by its history is the first amendment.
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you see that over and over again in the supreme court cases. so even the members of the court to reject the notion of original intent in most areas really focus on it in the first amendment. well, y., religion, why should this particular area be something where we focus on history more than other areas? this is going to be in the next book, too. but i think there's a partial answer to that. it's so revolutionary. that until the american revolution, every state had an official religion. every state from their own ministers and the kings religion, that was, the king's religion is the people's religion. so when that changes in america and then becomes the first amendment, and i'm satisfying and taking a lot of gems, it's so revolutionary that i think it is one of the reasons, one of the justifications are why the supreme court justices so
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rapidly turned to history when we're talking about religious freedom. >> thank you very much. i like to thank our speakers today. [applause] >> interested in american history? watch american history television on c-span3. >> i am a very hopeful person, an unrepentant idealist. i've come to understand hopefulness and idealism and strength as real blessings. this book as much as anything is a gesture of gratitude to some of the people who have given me those kids of hopefulness and idealism. the teachers who gave me a reason to believe in a brighter future.
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the family and strangers who gave me a reason to believe in the power of kindness. the church lays on the southside of chicago gave me a reason to believe in the essence of faith, the voters for that matter. but give me a reason to believe in the politics of conviction. and many, many others. a friend of mine described this book as a love story. which for me was the most powerful complement i could be given. i've wanted to write about these people and the lessons they taught me for two reasons. first, because they have done more than help me succeed. they have helped me want to be better. be a better leader, a better husband and parent, a better citizen. and secondly because it's within each of us to pass these kinds of lessons onto others. in fact, i think river generational responsibility to do just that. as some of you know, i grew up on the southside of chicago in the '50s and '60s, most of that time on welfare. my mother and sister and i
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shared a two-bedroom tenement with our grandparents and various cousins who came and went. my mother and sister and i said in one of those bedrooms and shared a set of bunk beds to go from the top to the bottom. every third night i went to bed broken, sometimes violent schools. but we have a community. those were days when every child was under the jurisdiction of every single adult on the block. remember that? you messed up in front and this just in she would straighten you out and then you are. and then call home so you got it two times. and i think with those adults are trying to get across to us is they had a stake in us. and and membership in the tenured he was understanding the stake for each of us has, not in her own dreams and struggles but in our neighbors as well. given the expectations that much of society has for poor black people in circumstances like mine, i am not supposed to be
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where i am today. my story is improbable but at the same time a distinctly american story. and it may not get told as often as we would like in this country, but it gets told more often in this country and any other place on earth. it is a defining story. in 1970 i got a breakthrough program called a better chance, go to milton academy. for me that was like landing on a different planet. i saw it for the first time the night before classes began in 1970. all by myself. my family didn't see it until graduation day. i remember that address could in those days. the boys wear jackets and ties to class. when the clothing list of rides my grandparents splurge on a brand-new jacket for me to wear to class. at a jacket on the southside of chicago is a windbreaker. so the first class all the other boys are putting on the blue blazers and a tweed coat, and there was i in my windbreaker.
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i want to point out i figured it out. i struggled by my footing. but again there were teachers and other adults who reached out and who helped. i went on to harvard college, first in my family to go to college, the harvard law school. i've lived in chicago, boston and los angeles, new york, here in d.c. and atlanta, in sudan. i've been business all over the world. i've had some remarkable experiences in probable ones in the eyes of many. i've argued in the supreme court. i've hitched hiked from -- i've counseled to present. i served as the first black governor of massachusetts but on my first time running for office. that as i reflect on each of these experiences, each has its roots in the lessons that i try to write about in this book. these lessons have given me a sense of the possible, and that has made all the difference. i write in the book about the transition on the southside of
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chicago to milton academy about the spirit of trying to bridge these very different world where each one seemed to demand that you reject the other as the price of acceptance into one. and how important it was for me to understand ultimately that that was a false choice. i write about the way the old ladies in big hats in church back home taught me to see that faith is not so much what you say you believe, but how you live. i write about the extraordinary courage and strength of my wife die in their first marriage with an abusive husband and the toll might early days in public office took on her, and how her triumph and strength and not just me that the thousands of others, time and time again experience is a great trial and even turmoil have produced transcendent positives and it contributed to my idealism. i want to defend and encourage
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that kind of idealism as i think it is what motivates people to make what seems improbable possible. that may sound corny to some of you, especially in washington, d.c., but, in fact, there's nothing at all corny about hope. and there is nothing at all in powering or in noble in about alternative. about pessimism. in fact, as governor it has been a sense of the possible at has helped us achieve many remarkable things against war than customary odds. in these exceptionally cynical times i think people are hungry for something more positive and affirming and a steady diet of no, that they get. it has implications on both policy level and a personal level. on a policy level, without a renewed sense of idealism, with all the risk of failure and disappointment that that
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entails, and essential part of the national character, our can-do spirit, will be in jeopardy. none of the big challenges facing this country will successfully defaced. >> you can watch this and other programs online at >> what are you reading this summer, booktv wants to know. >> the first book on my reading list, this spring and summer was by cleopatra. what a great insight into accounting her life. it was a book that was recommended to me. and so i decided to pick it up and read it and then continued with a strong woman theme, if you will, with elizabeth i by margaret george. that some ipad. i am reading both of these as e-books. i have gone back doing these, cleopatra and elizabeth i, a caveat to the historical and
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older novel type approach. and with my bible study group i am rereading pilgrims progress. which is a delightful, to get back into that. it's been a while since i have reread it. and then because the movie out with shrek coming out, i, with my family, we are rereading "atlas shrugged" which is very time that i have to say. for those of us who are here in d.c. >> tell us what you're reading this summer. send us a tweet at booktv. >> next on booktv jackie gingrich cushman, daughter of former house speaker newt gingrich discusses her book "the essential american" on the most significant document the speeches in the history of america. this is about 40 minutes. >> thank you. thank you very much and thank you for everyone here.
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i appreciate your time. i appreciate you taking the time out an afternoon and it coming. i hope you will be a really interesting conversation, a little different maybe. it is a thrill to be here in the rayburn house office building because my first memories of this building or in the '70s. many of you are not alive then. but if you can imagine the '70s i was a very young girl and i would run up and down the corridors there and back and you could actually take the elevators debt and go through the tunnels without security, right? and many times i would get lost. and pop back up somewhere else, even the library of congress or over at the capitol building that but really this is where i spent a lot of my time growing up. so for me it's a particular thrill to be back in the rayburn house, and thank you very much for having me here. it's quite an honor. in terms of oregon, and background about my personal back then, why i think
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particularly at this point in our nation's history, i this book and what our founding documents and history of our nation are so very important. as we really are i think a really important crossroads in the country. i think we have to figure out the and who are we as a country, what do we believe in? and i think the best place to start for that is to look at our documents, at our history. and that's really what drove "the essential american." so again i would like to say especially for the claire booth policy group, have great little story, also a friend of us come here, and for those who might know dana, i know dana for over a decade. and she worked for my father at the american enterprise institute. and she actually got that job because she came to washington to look for a job, came to one of these events, network, met somebody in the next thing she knew she spent a


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